Abdicating a basic responsibility

The Herald this morning reported on a new open letter in support of Anne-Marie Brady, this one from 169 (at present –  the letter is still open apparently) overseas experts on issues relating to the People’s Republic of China.   As the signatories note:

Since the publication of her work on global United Front work, Brady’s home and office have been subjected to burglaries, during which no valuable items other than electronic devices were stolen. Most recently, her car was found to have been tampered with in ways consistent with intentional sabotage. According to media reports, Interpol and the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service  (SIS) are involved in the investigation. In China, academics were interrogated by Ministry of State Security agents after their institutions hosted Brady. Brady has also been personally attacked in media under the direction of the CCP, both in the PRC and in New Zealand. Taken together, these circumstances make it likely that this harassment campaign constitutes a response to her research on the CCP’s influence, and an attempt to intimidate her into silence.

Despite the evidence of CCP interference provided in Brady’s research, of which the harassment campaign appears to be a further example, the New Zealand government has been slow to take action and failed to acknowledge that a problem exists…..

Far from unique to New Zealand, the CCP’s global United Front tactics and other political influence operations have been documented in other locations, in Europe, Oceania, Asia and the Americas. ….Whether within or without the limits of the law of their target countries, these activities have considerable effects on their societies and merit evidence-based research and the attention of politicians and the media. The harassment campaign against Brady risks having a chilling effect on scholarly inquiry, allowing the CCP to interfere in the politics of our societies unfettered by informed scrutiny.

We urge the New Zealand authorities to grant Professor Brady the necessary protection to allow her to continue her research, sending a clear signal to fellow researchers that independent inquiry can be protected in democratic societies and conducted without fear of retribution.

We join other voices in support of Professor Brady, which have included statements by a New Zealand Chinese community organisation, some of her Canterbury University colleagues, New Zealand academics and two Australian Sinologists, as well as many others on social media.

We further hope decision makers and the public at large, in New Zealand and elsewhere, will engage with evidence-based research on the CCP’s United Front tactics, such as Brady’s Magic Weapons, and give due consideration to policy advice emanating from such research.

It is welcome that these (mostly) foreign experts are coming together in support of Professor Brady. But what sort of country have we become where such stands are even thought necessary?   Once upon a time this was a bastion of democracy and liberty, and now our “leaders” cower in the corner, apparently unbothered about “little things” like the apparent intimidation of Professor Brady.   It is a shameful choice.  There are deal flows to keep going –  students to enrol for the new academic year for example –  and funding political parties doesn’t seem to come cheap.   And barely a voice in Parliament –  none from anywhere in our main parties – that appears troubled in the slightest.

Before I saw that open letter I’d been meaning to draw attention to an even more trenchant statement from closer to home, this one by Paul Buchanan, a former academic with a background in the US system, and who now runs a consultancy that describes itself this way

36th Parallel Assessments is a non-partisan, non-governmental geopolitical risk and strategic assessment consultancy.

Buchanan is an American who has lived here for a long time, and is in the process of becoming a citizen.  From what I’ve read of his stuff over the years, his personal politics probably lean left. But his post pulls few punches about the abdication of responsibility being displayed by the Labour-led government on this issue.

I do not mean to bang on about the Anne Marie Brady case but since it is coming up on one year since the campaign of criminal harassment began against her, I feel compelled to mention how the Labour-led government’s silence has been used as a window of opportunity by pro-China conspiracy theorists to question her credibility and defame her. Until I blocked the troll I shall call “skidmark,” this was even seen here on KP [Kiwipolitic blog] where he launched numerous attacks on professor Brady as well as question the very notion that the burglaries and vandalism that she has been subjected to were somehow related to her work on PRC influence operations in NZ.

He goes on the outline a number of strands of attack made on Professor Brady  by these “trolls”, each more far-fetched or unpleasant than the last.   There are even people echoing the ludicrous and desperate claim made on the hustings last year by the then Attorney-General Chris Finlayson that Professor Brady was saying the stuff she was becasue she was “racist”.

Buchanan goes on

It is very likely that the government’s reticence to talk about the case is due to diplomatic concerns, and that political pressure has been put on the Police and SIS to delay offering any more information about the status of the investigation

That’s a serious claim, but almost nine months on –  while the Prime Minister pretends this is just a normal suburban Police inquiry – it sounds plausible.  Police, after all, have form in bending to the political wind.

Gathering from the tone of her recent remarks it appears that Ms. Brady is frustrated and increasingly frightened by the government’s inaction. I sympathise with her predicament: she is just one person tilting against much larger forces with relatively little institutional backing. I also am annoyed because this is a NZ citizen being stalked and serially harassed on sovereign NZ soil, most probably because of things that she has written, and yet the authorities have done pretty much nothing other than take statements and dust for fingerprints.

And expressed no hint of concern, let alone outrage, at the possibility of the involvement of a foreign power.  (And, of course, no apparent interest at all in taking seriously the substantive concerns Professor Brady was highlighting about PRC “sharp power” in New Zealand.)

Buchanan concludes with a telling parallel and highlights just how unacceptable the government’s handling of this matter –  apparently more interested in Beijing than in Brady –  should be seen as.

If this was a domestic dispute in which someone was burglarising and vandalising a neighbour’s or ex-partner’s property, I imagine that the cops would be quick to establish the facts and intervene to prevent escalation.  If that is the case then the same applies here. Because to allow these crimes to go unpunished without offering a word as to why not only demonstrates a lack of competence or will. It also encourages more of the same, and not just against Ms. Brady.

If one of the foundational duties of the democratic state is to protect the freedom and security of its citizens, it appears that in in this instance NZ has so far failed miserably. The government needs to step up and provide assurances that the investigation will proceed honestly to a verifiable conclusion and that it will work to ensure the safety of Anne Marie Brady against those who would wish to do her harm.

To not do so is to abdicate a basic responsibility of democratic governance.

Of course, the main opposition party shares in responsibility for, and ownership of, the government’s shameful abdication.

As I noted, one of the ludicrous claims made against Professor Brady –  fluent in Chinese, married to a Chinese man –  is that her work is motivated by racism.  One of those who has made such claims in the Chinese-language media is Auckland writer Morgan Xiao, a past or present international student at the University of Auckland.  He apparently writes fairly prolifically in various of the (CCP-controlled) Chinese-language outlets, which is of course his right.   His Facebook page however advertises his Labour Party associations, listing himself as a member of Labour Botany electorate committee, and featuring of photo of himself posing with the Prime Minister.   His writings are pretty pro-Beijing, and very anti-Brady.  He has accused her of racism, and also of running the arguments she does because she has been paid by the Americans to do so.  It is pretty florid stuff –  he has new piece here this week (open in Chrome and Google Translate will give you the gist).

A few weeks ago, the Auckland-based dissident author, and editor of the Beijing Spring magazine, Chen Weijian published (in Chinese) a takedown of some of Morgan Xiao’s recent writing on this subject.   I’ve previously published a translation of Chen Weijian’s article on Yikun Zhang (he of the National Party donations controversy, the Labour-bestowed QSM, and the close Beijing connection), and I was approached as to whether I’d be willing to make more widely available a translation of the latest article.   The translation has been undertaken by Luke Gilkison (and reviewed by a native Chinese speaker) a recent graduate in Chinese language and literature who has also spent time living and studying in China.  Both he and I would emphasise that the article is the work of Chen Weijian, and the views expressed are his and his alone, but his arguments seem to deserve wider circulation, especially given that Morgan Xiao himself is repeatedly returning to the issues.   The rhetorical style isn’t mine, and in some areas his conclusions seem a little over-optimistic to me (I’m not so sure that “the mainstream political ideology of our time is liberal democracy”).    But for those interested, the full translation is here

Chen Weijian Morgan Xiao Gilkison translation

As a flavour

On the matter of New Zealand–China relations, Xiao went on to say this: 

For a long time now, the National Party and the Chinese government have had frequent interactions. Many former National MPs have gone on to consultancy jobs within CCP-linked companies, and every time the Chinese government hosts an event, the number of National Party attendees far exceeds that of any other party. It’s evident that within National, at least, it is well known that China and New Zealand’s relationship is innocuous – otherwise how could these two parties, National and the CCP, be so close? Would that not be treason? 

This last part is said very well. Although I don’t know for sure what National would say to these assertions, I’m fairly sure they would have some choice words for this young man. Something along the lines of, “How on Earth is this helping us? You’re clearly intending to ruin us. Subterfuge!

And

He writes an editorial column on the website Skykiwi, and he’s a contributing writer for the People’s Daily, a state-run Chinese newspaper, where he writes under his Chinese name, Xiao Zhihong (肖志鸿). You’re more likely to find Xi Jinping thought in his Skykiwi column than anything reflecting New Zealand values. This quote from Xi Jinping appears in one of his columns, for example: “Our vision for democracy is not merely a system of one person, one vote. We strive to reflect the will of the people, and in this regard we not only do not fall short of the West, but we greatly surpass it.”

How does Xiao understand CCP-style democracy and “universal values”? This is his opinion on the Tiananmen Square massacre: 

Murderers and arsonists are criminals with no hope for rehabilitation. ….. But those June 4th bottom-feeders burnt and beat to death hundreds of soldiers, set fire to thousands of vehicles, and looted an army arsenal. People who commit wanton violence and destruction like this are beyond hope of rehabilitation. The condemnation of these crimes is a universal value. I say let us string up these June 4th rioters and beat them!

Perhaps if the Prime Minister ever chooses to speak out against the intimidation of Professor Brady, or to begin to take seriously the issues Professor Brady has repeatedly raised, she might make clear that she strongly disapproves of this sort of stuff from a Labour Party electorate committee member.

Then again, I guess Morgan Xiao was really only following her lead, when a few months ago she was committing to closer relations between Labour and the CCP and of party president Nigel Haworth who was in Beijing praising the regime and Xi Jinping just a few months earlier.

It is an abdication of New Zealand values –  hand in hand with the National Party.  We need leaders who see government, and international relations, as more than just the sum of the deals, the sum of the flow of political party donations.  There is little sign that we have such “leaders” anywhere in politics.

26 thoughts on “Abdicating a basic responsibility

  1. It’s a matter of priorities. Jacinda has been very busy of late overseeing a government that cares more about the wellbeing of a convicted foreign drug smuggler than it does about the harassment of a respected New Zealand academic by agents of a foreign power.

    Like many people I am lost for words at the rank, craven cowardice displayed by our politicians over CCP penetration of New Zealand’s political class and their failure to respond to the outrages against Prof Brady. We must not let this pass, the CCP threat is the most important issue facing the future of this country.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Canada has arrested Huawei’s global chief financial officer in Vancouver, where she is facing extradition to the United States, Canada’s Department of Justice said on Wednesday. The arrest is related to violations of U.S. sanctions.

    China’s embassy in Canada said it resolutely opposed the arrest and called for Meng’s immediate release.
    The handset and telecommunications equipment maker said it complies with all applicable export control and sanctions laws and U.S. and other regulations.

    https://www.businesstoday.in/technology/news/chinese-tech-giant-huawei-cfo-arrested-in-canada-faces-extradition-to-us/story/297806.html

    Like

  3. “” let us string up these June 4th rioters and beat them! “” – did I really just read this! Written by a member of Labour Botany electorate committee!

    Under the headline ” Kindness, not fear or hate – Jacinda Ardern’s message to Donald Trump and the world ” is “” If I could distil it down into one concept that we are pursuing in New Zealand it is simple and it is this. Kindness. “”

    Is Botany labour electorate out of this world?

    Liked by 3 people

    • Maybe jacinda could use “kindness” to address the appalling male suicide rate or the downward spiral of boys in education. Higher workplace deaths etc…kindness

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  4. Great links thanks, Micheal. Read them both thoroughly.

    Another article on this;
    https://www.interest.co.nz/news/97075/jacinda-ardern-says-shed-act-if-police-told-her-chinese-govt-was-intimidating-canterbury

    Check out the third blog/public comment down. I reported it, as felt the word “narcissist” used was defamatory and should be removed. The Ed. got back to me (to his credit) but did not take it down – feeling it useful that ‘trolls’ exposed themselves as such was probably useful.

    Told him I disagreed, but there you have it – it stayed. He would benefit by reading Paul Buchanan’s article.

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    • I agree with the editor of Interest.co.nz

      Having read that blog entry and reading the revealing quotes from Mr Morgan Xiao / Xiao Zhihong does make me wonder about the source of the attempted intimidation of Anne-Marie Brady. I doubt President Xi is in the least concerned about any academic publication in English especially in such a small minor country.
      Of course the execution of Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi and the poisoning of Sergi and Yulia Skripal does prove how sensitive government leaders can be.

      With no evidence I suspect the attacks on Anne-Marie Brady are instigated from a lower level of the CCP and probably pursued enthusiastically by a few Chinese residents living in NZ. For example Mr Xiao may enjoy living in New Zealand and if so he may be terrified of being forced (via presure on his family) to return to China where he might well be told to share a household with a destitute Uyghur family in bleak Xinjiang province. Who knows if a similar fear motivates two of our MPs.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Even your best case scenario illustrates the potential ways China can leverage the Chinese diaspora in New Zealand, and elsewhere.

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      • INTERPOL involvement as per that link Micheal posted to the article by Paul Buchanan suggests otherwise (i.e., that the perpetrators are thought to no longer be in country).

        I’m curious why you don’t think the editor should have deleted the name calling? That’s an awful label to put on someone, very defamatory to my mind.

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      • Katherine, very simple reason – the name calling reflects badly on the author not the subject.

        My classic example is from a concert held in New Orleans to honour Louis Armstrong; the local compere started reading about Louis’s accomplishments and then interrupted himself with something like “I’m not going to introduce no n****”. Extremely and publically rude but really a comment about himself and his pig ignorant racism and not remotely affecting Louis Armstrong’s reputation.

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    • Hi Katherine, we had a wee discussion recently re Chinese influence in university. There is increasing evidence that this is directly affecting free speech and even the type of courses being offered.

      As Clive Hamilton argues in his book, Silent Invasion, Beijing is steadily infiltrating Australia’s institutions, most notably academia. In short, the communists are buying off academics as assiduously as they are politicians. Quote:

      “The Confucius Institute…appears to be a conduit through which the Chinese Embassy communicates the Chinese government’s displeasure to the relevant University. When a university is about to host a function that is critical of the Chinese government or of a Chinese government policy or one that supports a group that is being oppressed by the Chinese government, the Chinese Embassy communicates its displeasure through the Confucius Institute to the university administration and, behold, the admin stops the function…

      So, where were all those protesting academics…? Why didn’t they write a letter to Sydney Uni Vice Chancellor and publish it in every daily newspaper, demanding that the Confucius Institutes be closed because of their threat to academic freedom (read freedom of belief)”

      https://www.spectator.com.au/2018/12/confucius-say-relax/

      Liked by 1 person

      • Gosh – interesting link. For the past 10 years I’ve been teaching the basics of the philosophy of ethics (i.e., Western moral philosophy – a similar body of knowledge to that of the Ramsey Centre) to College of Science students here in NZ – then moving on through to environmental ethics (as they have progressed through time) and worldviews, or ‘sustainability’ narratives (as we call them in the planning/environmental management discipline). Then we move onto examples of these ethical frameworks in operation/practice in NZ environmental management and the interplay of those values/ethics with respect to the role of science in environmental controversies.

        I recall one year having the most delightful student of Chinese ethnicity in my class. He always sat in the back row, asked more questions in clarification than most and the smile on his face and the eyes, twinkling and wide open throughout all of my lectures was a real treat. I could tell he was really enjoying the material – and I just thought maybe he was one of those people with a permanent smile on his face.

        He approached me at the final lecture, to let me know how much he had enjoyed the module, and expressed his surprise at how openly critical I was able to be regarding government action and inaction on environmental management matters, as the case may be.

        To cut a long story short, as a science student you don’t get exposed to much moral philosophy/social science and I think it was the first time he was encouraged to think critically about a government’s actions/inactions. I never checked whether he was a foreign student or a local one, but I suspect the former with a very good command of the English language.

        That material and the opportunity to teach across the disciplines of social and natural science has been one of the highlights of my teaching career.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. “and funding political parties doesn’t seem to come cheap.”

    Michael, it occurs to me that funding political parties is not expensive at all. It is probably the cheapest way to get from A to B.

    After reading what I think is a disgraceful screed from Heather Du Plessis-Allan (whose security expertise can be summarized in exactly zero sentences):

    https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12168860

    I realised that she, probably inadvertently, made a very salient point, which is that spending billions on ‘spy’ planes is a questionable decision when you can buy the near complete silence of our political parties, and by extension our government, for relative peanuts. Maybe Defence Force could budget a few million a year to buy them back and put things right.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Matt, I’d skipped that article by Heather Du Plessis-Allan until now. What a load of twaddle, I usually highlight out sentences or phrases to comment on but the article is so studied with points any rational thinking would demolish.

      I don’t consider my case a best case scenario. Intelligent behaviour by the Chinese govt would be just to ignore any essay written by foreigners so whatever is happening is being actioned by someone who is stupid and that is more frightening. A year ago I thought this was the Chinese govt arranging a break in not to frighten off Prof Brady but to terrify all who have ever spoken to her and especially her sources in China. The idea that there are some Chinese agents in our country who are terrified of upsetting their masters in Beijing came from idle thoughts about the murder of St Thomas Becket on 29th Dec 1170. The murder being triggered by King Henry saying “”What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and brought up in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric?””

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  6. Yes. This debate would be easier, for me anyway, if I supported state-funding of political parties and prohibition of private donations. But I don’t, for all sorts of reasons (partly philosphical – about the role of the state – but partly practical – the obstacle it poses to insurgent/new parties). Instead, we seem left relying on poiticians to know and do the right, decent, and honourable thing. That might work if one party were to break ranks and consistently call out the others, but as it is there is an unfortunate implicit agreement to all turn a blind eye to (even embrace) something that even some of the people associated with National and Labour know is deeply problematic.

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    • Not sure if a political party will break ranks but there is a winner for rank-smelling since an energetic Chinese source tells us that “” every time the Chinese government hosts an event, the number of National Party attendees far exceeds that of any other party. It’s evident that within National, at least, it is well known that China and New Zealand’s relationship is innocuous – otherwise how could these two parties, National and the CCP, be so close? Would that not be treason? “”

      For myself I would choose an antonym of ‘innocuous’: adverse, bad, baleful, baneful, damaging, dangerous, deleterious, detrimental, evil, harmful, hurtful, ill, injurious, mischievous, noxious, pernicious, prejudicial, wicked.

      This morning: https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/government-has-its-eyes-wide-open-china-winston-peters

      Like

  7. But note that he (Peters) is quite willing to talk about activity in the Pacific, and unwilling to be specific – let alone do anything specific – about stuff going on in NZ.

    What isn’t clear is whether National is just better at tapping this market than Labour (Labour rushing to catch up) or whether Labour actually has some scruples National doesn’t. I’d be happy to let evidence determine the answer, but my prior is the former explanation. Money follows success, and for years the Nats were v successful – and effective operators – and Labour wasn’t. That tide may have turned.

    Like

    • Gee, a politician prepared to openly discuss facts – like when you have a president for life, you aren’t a democracy! I guess we should be thankful for small wonders though. Interesting how our politicians and officials refer to the “Chinese Government” as opposed to the “Chinese Communist Party”. Words matter – as we found out all too well in Trump’s political campaign.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Just received an email from the PM with a link to the Party’s donation page – sent back the following reply:

    Dear Jacinda

    Get CCP money and people out of New Zealand politics for good and I’ll be back with my chequebook.

    Regards
    Katharine Moody

    Liked by 4 people

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